Greyhound Handicapping By Grade

Eb Netr

April 17th, 2013

As I've written before, I'm a big fan of Maiden races. I think they're the easiest to handicap, because speed is such a big factor in them. When most greyhounds start their careers, they run the same way. They burst out of the box, run as fast as they can and just try to catch that lure. They don't have technique, but, by golly, they can run and they're enthusiastic.

Unfortunately, running as fast as possible, without paying attention to the other dogs on the track can lead to a lot of bumping and jostling, as the young dogs get tangled on the turns and at the break. A few dogs seem to have an instinct for avoiding trouble, even at an early age. They're the ones who win their first or second Maiden race and then move right into J.

Other dogs can find trouble in every race, and seem to go out of their way to bump into other dogs or get into the path of the dogs gaining on them. If they're smart, they'll mature a little and figure out that getting around other dogs is more effective than trying to go through them. They'll find their path on the track and stick to it and start to hit the board.

Usually, by the time a dog has been running for a few months, you can tell whether it will always be a dog that gets into trouble or not. This is when the dogs that are going to climb the grade ladder start learning some technique and strategy to add to their speed. And this means that you have to handicap them differently when they're in races you want to play.

In the higher grade races, many times there's not much difference in speed between the dogs. If you look at the races they've run in that grade, you'll find that they're all within a very small range for speed. But look at a lower grade race. At a track where Grade A is the top grade, look at a Grade C race. Almost always, you'll find a much wider range of speed between the dogs.

You'll also find that the speed range for each individual dog varies more. A dog will have a 31.99 in one race and a 30.22 in another in the same grade. What will it do today? Will it be at the top of its speed or at the bottom? Well, that's the problem with using speed as the biggest factor when you handicap lower grade races.

This is why I prefer to stick with Maiden races and the top grade races. But, if you like to play every race like a lot of people do, you have to figure out some way to handicap the lower and middle grades. When I do play a race in those grades, I start by trying to figure out which dogs just don't make the grade, even in that grade.

If I can throw out a couple of dogs, I can look at the rest and see if any of them have an advantage that might help them win this time. Do they have a better post position than they've had in their last few races? Are they between two slow breaking dogs or in the 8 box with a slow breaker to their left?

What kept them from winning in their other races that isn't present in this race? Maybe they've just come back from a layoff and are getting better. Maybe they're switching from sprints to a route, something that usually gets a better performance from a dog if it has one to give.

Sometimes, it occurs to me as I handicap a Grade B race that I'm handicapping dogs that I handicapped in M just a few months ago. But back then, it was their speed I was interested in. Sometimes, all you need to know to handicap a Maiden race is which dog has the top speed and is in the best post position. Not so for B races.

In the top grades, I don't even look at speed, except to notice if any of the dogs is appreciably faster or slower than the other dogs on a consistent basis. If they're all pretty evenly matched, I look at the other important factors, such as which dogs have been running against each other and how did those races play out. In the top grades, the same dogs run against each other, over and over. Look back at their races to see what happened when they were in different boxes.

The best dogs learn how to combine technique with speed. The dogs that never learn that may manage to stay in contention in the lower grades by winning every once in a while. But it's very hard to make money on this kind of dog. The only time I'll play a dog that gets into trouble a lot, is if I know that it's in a situation where it can actually get clear of the other dogs.

If a dog that has lots of trouble lines is in a box it really likes, with slower breakers to each side and no dogs that look like they can get in its way, I might play it just to have something going in a race. But situations like that are rare. It's more likely that a "trouble dog" will be in a race where it doesn't have everything going for it.

And no matter what kind of race it's in, you know it's going to do the same thing it always does. It's going to burst out of the box, run as fast as it can and mow down everything in its way that doesn't knock it down first. It will never learn and never change. And the handicapper that plays it when it isn't in its favorite box in a race with no other breakers is going to have a lot of trouble too.